Book Review – ‘Ida’ by Alison Evans

‘Sliding Doors’ meets Blake Crouch’s ‘Dark Matter’ buy YA with diverse characters.

Ida Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 246

From Goodreads:

How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want?

Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths.

One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.

How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?

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The main plotline of ‘Ida’ is extraordinary. I love a good multiverse theory in my science fiction. The biggest drawback, however was the narrative. There are many characters/situations introduced that are not resolved: either in a way that they are meant to be left open, or something to give the story more gravitas. It left me feeling unsatisfied upon completion of the novel.

But what ‘Ida‘ has going for it, apart from its concept, is the diversity of characters and the depiction of the multiple universes – how one small decision can dramatically (or minutely) change your life. It is a great theme, but is never really explored to the fullest extent. I feel like the narrative was a stream of consciousness playing with the concept of the multiverse, but ignored the science and the implications. I really needed something to ground it in the narrative. The constant jumping around into different states did not help either. I was disorientating… which would have been fine if it served a purpose for the story, but ultimately, went nowhere like many of the plot points.

What ‘Ida‘ does is open the mind up to a great many possibilities. Starts a conversation for this universe. Almost like it is the pilot episode of a television series, or the start of anthology. Other versions of yourself with their own motivations, gaining the ability to switch between realities, working against you. Finding a near perfect version of your life. The promise of becoming an agent for a mysterious organisation policing those with the ability to travel time and space… all the seeds are planted, but many fail to get explored other than a cursory mention.

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The crux of ‘Ida‘ is about her journey to fill the missing void in her life by switching realities, instead of becoming the change she wants to see. That is itself, pretty poetic, but is lost amongst a jumbled narrative. It’s such a shame for a novel with such strong themes, fantastic science fiction concepts, and wonderfully diverse characters (though they need to be explored and developed more) that I didn’t get my wish fulfilment. However, this is Alison Evans first published novel, and given the potential and strength of her ideas, I can imagine amazing stories yet to come with experience.

I absolutely adored that this was set in Melbourne, Australia. A place I like to call home. There really isn’t enough Aussie representation in mainstream YA fiction on the international stage, and I can see Evans becoming a breakout author real soon.

I have already purchased another standalone ‘Highway Bodies‘ – a zombie tale, so we’ll see how that story impact me in a future review soon.

All in all, ‘Ida’ was not a bad debut, but there are so many more novels out there that have executed this concept much better. I’d recommend it for the character study, not as a science fiction novel.

Overall feeling: whaa-whaa

Ida Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Ida Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Kalahari’ (#3 Corpus) by Jessica Khoury

Kalahari will test your mental strength and physical ability to survive in the harshest of climates.

Kalahari (Corpus #3) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…
But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.

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I loved this book. Admittedly, my expectations were a little lower after reading ‘Origin’ – though that debut wasn’t bad, there were moments the pacing lagged. That was definitely not the case in ‘Kalahari.’ It was non-stop action from start to finish. It has been a while since I’ve been so wrapped in a story.

Kalahari’ is a companion novel to the other two in the Corpus collection – and you by no means have to read them in order. In fact I read Kalahari before reading ‘Vitro.’

The best way I can sum up this novel is a combination of the movies ‘The Breakfast Club’ meets Clive Cussler’s ‘Sahara.’

Kalahari (Corpus #3) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.pngOur protagonist, Sarah is one gutsy chick. Using all her survival skills, sheer grit and determination to drag a group of city kids through the desert… while being stalked by human and animal predators alike. She comes across as shy in social situations, which is understandable, since she is practically home schooled in the isolation amongst the South African desert – sorry, semi-desert; but is also confident and determined from years of living in remote places and dealing with all types of wildlife.

The only thing that reflected negatively for me was when Sarah started listening to a recording at the most inappropriate time… that’s as much as I’m going to say, because – spoilers. But when I read that, I was literally saying out loud “What the eff” in astonishment.

Khoury’s writing style improves progressively throughout this trilogy. Pace and tension are far superior in ‘Kalahari’ than in the debut (‘Origin.’) She also has a way of building the world and describing the landscape that is anything but delicious. You can get such a clear picture of Sarah’s surrounds you really feel like you are there. Seeing the improvement in Khoury’s skills only make me more excited to read some of her recent releases.

It was interesting to read the city-slicker group that Sarah guides through the desert and how they cope with suddenly being cut-off from all aid, under threat, and needing to push their body to the limits to survive. I felt it was a realistic interpretation of what could happen. Growing up in the Australian desert myself, and a love for nature and hiking, occasionally friends would tag along and be confronted how being in the middle of nowhere means you need to adopt an entirely different set of skills to survive.

I love science fiction that actually has some science in it. And though it’s dumbed down drastically, we get some of the science behind the story. As well as botanical and zoology references about the Kalahari environment. It really gives you a strong sense of the flora and fauna. Geek girl in me loves it! I read it in one sitting.

Overall feeling: Spectacular survival skills!

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Kalahari (Corpus #3) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Dark Matter’ by Blake Crouch

Mind-bending and expanding. Sci-fi at it’s best.

dark-matter-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Science Fiction, Mystery

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

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Dark Matter’ turned out to live up to all the hype I’ve been hearing. Although I was starting to doubt the great reviews I’d read because it takes half of the novel for things to get heated up, but when they do, it takes off in a fiery blast.

The protagonist, Jason, was the type of character that took me a while to warm up to. I guess because he flailed about so much. Reacting to the bizarre. But what else could he do? There was so much of it thrown at him in the first half that we didn’t get to know him. It wasn’t until his strength and hope started to get tested (along with his sanity) that I started to connect with him.

Amanda, fellow traveler, I felt could have been more poignant to the story – she added some psychologist wisdom as to the psyche and the multiverse, and even about the impact of facing infinity… I feel there was a missed opportunity to drive home a point at the heart of this novel – fear, inevitability and infinitesimally small nature of things. Mind blown. Instead she felt more or less like a non-event. With enjoying her take on the situation I wanted more of her in the story than we got.

Jason’s wife and son really make the narrative with their added perspective. And it’s needed because this novel gets hella cray-cray. You’ll understand when you read it.

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Dark Matter’ got waaay better after the half way mark, as I mentioned earlier, getting to know Jason, and setting up the premise of the science behind ‘Dark Matter’ takes a while. But once you get past that hump it is extremely engaging – I stayed up late to finish it. The tension and pacing were expertly crafted.

I had difficulty with any predictions on how it was going to turn out- the nature of the science and the bleak tone of the novel just leaves you with a feeling of despondency. Why? And it’s a marvellous experience to be kept on the edge of your seat. Bravo Blake Crouch!

It still only feels like we’ve scratched the surface too – that’s how massive the concept to this novel is. I think I sat there staring off into space for a while after finishing, trying to take it all in.

Dark Matter’ has a brilliant ending. Very satisfying. Highly entertaining. I’d been told it was great, and it certainly did not disappoint. There is even a little moral lesson from Jason’s wife that I thought added something extra.

There is something distinctly masculine and dry about Blake’s writing style – I found myself frequently putting this book down for a rest. The story is certainly amazing, action packed, and science nerd porn. Chock full of all the elements I love in a story, but there was something about the narrative which didn’t grab me straight away when I started reading ‘Dark Matter.’ Definitely recommend it though, especially if you like your more obtuse science fiction references.

Overall feeling: my brain! My brain!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ by Stephen King

Woodsy creepiness at its best.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror, Thriller

No. of pages: 264

From Goodreads:

Trisha McFarland is a plucky 9-year-old hiking with her brother and mom, who is grimly determined to give the kids a good time on their weekends together. Trisha’s mom is recently divorced, and her brother is feuding with her for moving from Boston to small-town Maine, where classmates razz him. Trisha steps off the trail for a pee and a respite from the bickering. And gets lost.

Trisha’s odyssey succeeds on several levels. King renders her consciousness of increasing peril beautifully, from the “first minnowy flutter of disquiet” in her guts to her into-the-wild tumbles to her descent into hallucinations, the nicest being her beloved Red Sox baseball pitcher Tom Gordon, whose exploits she listens to on her Walkman. The nature writing is accurate, tense, and sometimes lyrical, from the maddening whine of the no-see-um mosquito to the profound obbligato of the “Subaudible” (Trisha’s dad’s term for nature’s intimations of God). Our identification with Trisha deepens as we learn about her loved ones: Dad, a dreamboat whose beer habit could sink him; loving but stubborn Mom; Trisha’s best pal, Pepsi Robichaud, vividly evoked by her colorful sayings (“Don’t go all GIRLY on me, McFarland!”). The personal associations triggered by a full moon, the running monologue with which she stays sane–we who have been lost in woods will recognize these things.

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I’m getting back to my roots – back in Junior High I took interest in reading through Stephen King, Isaac Asimov and Dean Koontz. Since graduating I have read little of their titles since, so am currently attacking King’s back catalogue – maybe to recapture my youth, but definitely reliving the fun I had when reading. ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ was a great addition to my collection and a welcome distraction to many of the YA titles I’ve been reading of late.

I really liked the play of perception and the POV of Trisha (Patricia) our protagonist, lending the interpretation of the story open to the reader to draw her or his own conclusions.

Trisha has an indomitable spirit.  I was really cheering for her and amazed at how she faced each challenge.

Tom Gordon, the form of Trisha’s guardian angel, or inner strength was a great symbol to focus on. Though some of the baseball jargon got a little tiresome for me because I loath baseball – it’s not really a big thing here in Australia – I appreciated it for what it was. A distraction and a coping mechanism to get Trisha from point A to point B.

Our antagonist could fall under many forms – nature, fear fuelled imagination, her family; and I loved how it morphed from one to the other, never leaving you certain of anything.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

It took half the book to wind up and get interesting. I find every now and then Stephen Kings’s books do get a bit waffly in setting up the story and exploring the casts back stories. I know it is to get us to care about the characters and offer some perspective, but sometimes it feels a little long winded.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ had the right amount of suspense and hair-raising creepiness. The second half of the novel was absolutely brilliant and I could not put it down.

I enjoyed this a lot more than many other of Kings titles, because it was based on character development and an inner struggle rather than gory monsters and demons (though this could be argued). It was a psychological thriller instead of horror, and appealed to my survival instincts. I have found myself lost in the bush many times, having to trek a day or so to safety. It was so vivid, and the descriptions of the landscape – mysterious and beautiful at the same time. Nature can be astoundingly picturesque and the face of death at the same time.

A great read that induces chills and makes you want to pull your feet up off the floor, with the hint of the disgusting and the unknown. Totally recommending this to all my friends who like a scare, but don’t want to feel like tossing up their dinner from gore.

Overall feeling: wickedly chilling

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.